Following their grand Marvel success, filmmaking pair the Russo Brothers have irked many moviegoing audiences, filmmakers, journalists, and very-online social media audiences. Like James Cameron before them and his brand of smug irritation, their success has seemingly inflated an arrogance in them, and or, their epic box office accomplishments have made the media hang on to their every word and prop it up as something worth quoting (and we’re guilty of this too). The Russo Brothers have also seemingly coined a term of “elevated action” (or at least, I think this is easily something they might’ve said), which is essentially just a blending of genres as something novel and innovative when it’s really as old as time and something as traditional as most classic pleasurable ’80s and ’90s blockbusters.
READ MORE: ‘Ghosted’ Trailer: Chris Evans & Ana De Armas Meet Cute In A New Secret Agent Spy/Rom-Com Coming in April
Digressing less, this is all to say the new Apple TV+ romantic comedy action hybrid “Ghosted” isn’t a Russo Brothers movie at all, nor are they remotely involved. Still, it feels like a Russo Brothers movie in that, the self-satisfied film radiates like it’s reinventing the wheel, and yet it is equally hollow and generic (fun fact: I like the Russo Brothers and a lot of what they have to say—they’ve given a lot of cogent thoughts on filmmaking in various podcasts— but there’s no denying none of their post-Marvel films have worked, and the haughty impression they sometimes leave is more than a one-sided view).
Directed by Dexter Fletcher (“Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Rocketman”) and written by “Deadpool” franchise guys Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (also producers) and “Spider-Man” franchise guys Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, it feels bloated, ridiculous, and anonymous, just like “The Gray Man.” The film gives the odd sensation of would-be entertaining, aspiring-to-be charming romantic comedy action film that’s really been filtered through ChatGPT—it hits all the right beats in theory. Still, it’s incredibly soulless, disposable, and as generic as they come.
The entire concept revolves around being “ghosted” —when someone you’ve made an intimate connection with suddenly vanishes and stops replying to your messages and texts— but it’s almost as if the various filmmakers don’t actually know what being ghosted means (the pair literally have less than 24-hour absence after their first interaction), and use the term more like a modern buzz word they wanted to exploit as a clever title before someone else used it.
The film centers on coming-on-too-strong regular dude Cole (Chris Evans). Salt of the earth and from a farming family, Cole is needy and has scared away many of his gfs with clingy, codependent smothering and overdoing it amour too much too soon. Of course, he immediately falls head over heels for Sadie (Ana de Armas), an enigmatic woman he meets cute with at a farmer’s market plant shop, and then has an amazing, day-long/night-long first date when she suddenly lets her guard down to trust.
Texting her too much the next day (emojis count), she suddenly “ghosts” him according to his overbearing family, played by Tate Donovan, Amy Sedaris, and Lizze Broadway (again, though that’s not really how ghosting works, and it’s telling how the filmmakers try to compress the dating phenomenon into one day rather than a few pleasurable weeks that suddenly turn cold). Through tedious machinations we won’t bother with, Cole tracks Sadie down to London, England, and decides to make a grand romantic gesture by surprising her there. But after he’s unexpectedly kidnapped and almost killed thanks to a mistaken identity mishap, he quickly makes the shocking discovery that she’s a secret agent. Before they can attempt a second date, the deeply earnest and heart-on-his-sleeve Cole is swept into Sadie’s ruthless, tactical, coldhearted world of international espionage, which is essentially a series of escalating set pieces and where the movie becomes instantly dull and broad (at least the meet cute stuff was semi-charming thanks to the leads).
In other words, they’re absolute counterparts and not suited for each other, but “Ghosted” is the kind of movie where characters (in the first few moments of the film) tell Cole that he and Sadie have amazing sexual chemistry “underneath” it all, despite scenes depicting the exact opposite seconds before. And so “Ghosted” is an overstuffed action thriller where its two romantic leads bicker and fight the entire time while barely escaping brutal deaths every few scenes. Both of them felt cheated and lied to. Sadie is not the internationally well-traveled art dealer she said she is, and Cole is the risky, carefree dude he presents as and is lying to himself, claiming he’s writing a book and helping his ailing (actually not-sick-anymore) father. And Sadie sees right through it.
Even though the film is titled “Ghosted,” the film actually centers around plants and how much TLC they need to exist and live (in fact, the evil MacGuffin passcode of the film is the coded DNA of a plant which tells you how confused this movie is with itself). The metaphor is the cactus (perhaps the more fitting title), a shrub that doesn’t need much love, attention, or care to survive—just the way the aloof and emotionally unavailable Sadie likes it and just the way the needy and sensitive Cole hates it.
“Ghosted” then posits maybe if Sadie can learn to lean into love and not be so calculated and mission-oriented, and if Cole can man up, face his fears, and learn to take risks, not only will they be their best selves, but they just might be perfect for one another too. And then, the by-the-numbers screenplay walks each character towards each beat, step by obvious step. Adrien Brody hams it up as the bad guy (boy, is he awful), and Mike Moh, Stephen Park, and Tim Blake Nelson all appear as goofy and neurotic but not at all interesting heavies.
Worse, a lot of talent is involved; Evans as a lead, but also a producer, and all the superstar writers involved. Evans and the “Deadpool” guys seemingly call in all the favors for their pet project with some obvious ‘Avengers’ pals’ cameo (Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie, and that other motormouthed guy (Hey, it’s all on Wiki). Hell, this expensive (vanity?) project seems to spare no expense and hires the most-expensive music supervisors on the planet (Randall Poster and George Drakoulias) for a movie with some of the worst, most obvious music cues in recent memory (“My Sharona” by The Knack in an endlessly noisy, dumb action sequence, that I would bet all the money in the world is not the work of Poster and Drakoulias who do provide good music but are seemingly overridden by the most awful choices around; not for nothing, the green screen in every action sequence is very poorly masked).
“That’s not cactus behavior!” Sadie screams at one point about, spelling out the theme the movie would rather not put in its title about Cole’s over-reliant dependence on a partner versus her need to neglect them and stay detached. It just all comes off as an expensive excuse to talk relationship therapy in a routine plot (stop the evil weapon) while dodging bullets, squabbling, maybe kissing and making up, and saving the day through the efforts of bravery and cooperation. I might rather have a cacti spine impale my eye and blind me from watching movies ever rather than endure this obnoxious, self-satisfied, bland, and insipid film again. [D+]
“Ghosted” “is now” streaming on AppleTV+.